0
$\begingroup$

Context (from comment)

It is an independent Mars that is cut-off from Earth after an apocalyptic event damages most of human civilization. The technology is nearish-future and I want to keep it relatively hard sci-fi. What I am looking for is just suggestions to what could be possible currencies on these locations. Maybe something that is actually useful like uranium (I don't think the natural decay is too hard to handle if stored properly) or similar resources.

What means of economic exchange would be common on Mars? Would there be bartering instead? Would there be something like the gold standard but for other raw materials or resources? This is obviously a very speculative question but I would love to hear the ideas everyone else has here!

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome to Worldbuilding Stack Exchange! As to your question -- since there are currently no people on Mars, they can hardly have an economy up there. It would be great if you could give a description of the type of people that live on your Mars, their type of society, and their technological level. I vote to put this question on hold until it becomes less broad $\endgroup$ – subrunner Nov 17 '16 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @subrunner While I agree that other information would be helpful, this is completely answerable: you can consider resources on Mars of appropriate values to make into currencies, technology that would allow digital currency, ways to trade in a hostile environment, etc $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 17 '16 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ It is just intended to be an independent Mars that is cut-off from Earth after an apocalyptic event damages most of human civilisation. The technology is nearish-future and I want to keep it relatively hard-sci fi. What I am looking for is just suggestions to what could be possible currencies on these locations. Maybe something that is actually useful like uranium (I don't think the natural decay is too hard to handle if stored properly) or similar resources. $\endgroup$ – Nora Nov 17 '16 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra Depending on the society and technology level, they will find completely different things valuable. A gold standard exists on earth because it is very rare and heavily desired. A technologically very advanced society that can just transmute whatever metals they want, might find energy a better base currency. A communist society (in its ideal form, not the way it turned out to be in reality) might trade work hours. When food is short, food stamps might become a currency. So yes, it is very important what kind of economy you have! $\endgroup$ – subrunner Nov 17 '16 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ @subrunner I see. Editing information from OP's comment on post into question for clarity. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 17 '16 at 23:10
3
$\begingroup$

Barter is more myth than reality. It does exist but it has never been the dominant form of exchange. Debt is by far the most common, and money is just a way to make debt transferable.

Small communities just use memory to keep track of debt (I gave Bob half a cow so Bob owes me something worth half a cow), but larger ones develop money because there are too many people to keep track of.

Assuming we are talking about human colonists, standardized debit/credit cards would be a good choice.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ "has never been the dominant form of exchange." - utterly false. It was dominant before money got invented. And in some cases, it still is. For example - flight slots on airports, you can't just buy one for money, you need to find someone who will be willing to sell it and close his route. Officially it's trade secret, unofficially if you want one, you must offer more than money. Because that's a very limited resource and you can't just "make more". And on early Mars colony most resources will be like that. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 18 '16 at 0:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Mołot John's statement comes from the book 'Debt: The First 5000 years' where the author argues that debt based relationships preceded barter and coinage. He argues that barter was primarily restricted to relationships between groups with low trust for each other (like long distance traders), while the most common way to exchange with fellow villagers/clan/tribe members was through debt and honor. This theory isn't uncontested, but it is certainly not 'utterly false', and I, for one, agree with it. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Nov 18 '16 at 3:55
1
$\begingroup$

As someone whose only understanding of economics comes from a single year's worth of a high school source on the subject, I have only this to say:
Economics doesn't necessarily need to have currency. It does help, though.

Trade as a whole just needs an imbalance. If I make pizza and you make pizza, then there's nothing really to trade; but if I make pizza, and you make burgers, suddenly we have reason to trade! You give me burgers, I give you pizza, and we both thrive from the trade.

Where currency comes in is when value enters the picture. I mean, how many burgers is a pizza worth? What if I cut pizza into slices; how many burgers are worth a pizza slice? What if we add different things onto the burgers and pizza? We need a standard unit to attach value to, so that we can make sure nothing is gained or lost.

Basically, all currency is is a placeholder. Something you attach value to, so that you can pay/be paid without having to trade actual goods. What that currency is can be anything of convenience: seeds, rocks, teeth... heck, the first minted coins came into existence in the year 600 A.D., a good 30,000 or so years after the earliest confirmed international trade began.

So to answer your question, anything that can be easily recognized by a society can have value attributed to it. The possibilities are endless!

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ While I agree that currency is not the only option, you run into problems with barter such as consistent equivalent exchange - what if I have a burger but we can't decide how many slices it's worth? And problems of not having the right goods - what if I want fries but you only have burgers and pizzas? etc $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 17 '16 at 22:45

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.